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Thread: Advice on raft/cat purchase

  1. #1
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    Cool Advice on raft/cat purchase

    I've been researching and still can't decide. Down to three options: 1. 14' NRS Otter (round raft) 2. 16' Aire Jag Cat 3. 18' Aire Leopard Cat. Probable use is 75% fishing 25% hunting. I've got my river boat sled with jet for lower Kenai/Susitna/Talkeetna. Looking to expand my fishing horizons to the Western AK trout goldmines with a few Caribou/Moose excursions (plus the obvious upper Kenai). Need to consider my boys (now 4 and 1) who will accompany me in the near future. Waters of interest are Tikchik drainage, Alagnak, Naknek, and possibly smaller waters of Morraine/American/Kanektok/Lake Creek . I know from previous threads and ARK that rounds don't steer well under power (anyone got practical advice?). Will the Leopard be too big for the smaller rivers?

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    Default

    I strongly suggest the NRS Otters. Fantastic rafts that track through the most turbulent water. The only drawback would be the thickness (or denier) of the material. However, when you start bumping up to the expedition series, the price follows. We primarily operate 14' Otters and they've great. The guys at Alaska Raft & Kayak can also help when it comes to the details.

    Best of Luck!
    www.matsuexpeditions.com - Alaskan Wilderness Fishing & Rafting

  3. #3
    Member Phil's Avatar
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    Default Check First

    I second the idea of checking with Alaska Rafts. We (my hunting partners & I) own an early Leopard which we use primarily for hunting. Birch Creek is about the smallest I would want to float with that size and even then it is sometimes a real "drag" - pun intended.

    I'm not familiar with most of the rivers you want to float so check about size. Other than that, I can't praise the Loepard enough - we float 3 hunters, gear, and 1 or 2 animals (not 2 moose yet).

  4. #4
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    Default Plus - Minus

    You might consider going with a 15th Otter still reasonable in pricing with a tad more carrying capacity and room when the boys get older.

    You can frame an 18ft Lep to be narrow with no real dig on performance.

    Don't expect to set any speed records in a Round boat and motor we use 4 horse motors and they push fine across lakes and larger rivers.

    Advantage Cat if motor is your man concern.

    Advantage Otter for ease of use, overall weight and frame configurations for hunting and fishing.

    I guess if adding it up your looking at 200 plus pounds for Cat with frame etc...

    15ft Otter, TM frame etc.. about 160 lbs

    Just food for thought.

    Best of luck with your choice.

    Blue Moose

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    Default Raft

    I reccommend going with the Expedition grade vs. the Otter. When going through log jams as well as over obstacles found on most rivers. The thicker hypalon seems to hold up better plus they have the side wrap. They don't weigh that much more and when out in the boonies it bring a little more peace of mind.

  6. #6

    Default Double fabric is more then 2x stronger then single layer fabric

    Quote Originally Posted by needcoffee View Post
    I reccommend going with the Expedition grade vs. the Otter. When going through log jams as well as over obstacles found on most rivers. The thicker hypalon seems to hold up better plus they have the side wrap. They don't weigh that much more and when out in the boonies it bring a little more peace of mind.
    I Agree with Coffee. When you're out in the middle of no ware, you want a raft the will get you home!
    Rafts with single layer fabric on the bottom half of the tubes maybe a little lighter, but they will puncture when they hit a log jam with broken limbs (pongee sticks) especially if your raft is fully loaded. Where a raft that has the bottom half of the tubes wrapped with a second layer of fabric will bounce off with little more than a scuff.

    Good Boating

    Jim King
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    Talking More ?'s on raft vs cat

    Thanks for all the great input. Here's me fishing for more advice....
    I've got 20+ years river running experience, but zero oarsman experience. I understand the outboard advantage of cats and the simplicity/load capacity of rafts. What I need to know about is maneuverability (with and without a load). Can you hold static in a Kenai paced river (both rafts and cats) if necessary to avoid downstream trouble? Are NRS, AIRE products any better than ALASKA SERIES? I'm looking for top quality, but don't like paying for names anymore than the next guy.

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    Default Raft

    As far a hypalon boats go NRS is your best bet. Regarding PVC boats. If money isn't an object I would lean towards a Maravia.

    Cat's row against the current more easily than a round boat. But an aluminum drift boat works the best. A drag style anchor is a neccessity on either. Self bailing round boats carry more payload per foot than cat's and length can determine what water you can run. If I remember correctly my 14' NRS can carry about what an 18' cat can.

    In my case I could only afford one boat so I went with a round boat. It can do moderate whitewater, fish small creeks (as in the case of the Parks highway drainage) and carry 2 people and 2 moose float hunting.

  9. #9
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Cataraft pros and cons

    Given your wish list, and the type of rivers you're planning, I'd go for the cataraft. Here's why:

    1. Versatility. You can run an outboard, which is critical on some river systems. You can also run it with a variety of flooring systems, taking one on flyout trips and using the other on the road system where weight isn't as big a factor.

    2. Stability. The cat tracks very well, and is a better rescue craft if you have to pick someone off a rock using a belay system.

    2. Available space. The cat gives you tons of room to spread out, making it a much more comfortable boat for longer trips. Of course this space contributes to a person's tendency to overload it. Keep in mind that an 18-foot cataraft has about the same capacity as a 14-foot self-bailing round boat.

    I think AIRE is an excellent choice. Their boats are tough and they have the best warranty in the business. The inner bladder system makes field repair very easy. If you're in Anchorage or Fairbanks, you also have the advantage of local service.

    I saw the other poster's comment endorsing Maravia; I would ask around about them. I have not used them, but I have heard reports about leakers.

    Hope it helps!

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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  10. #10
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    Thumbs up Try b4 U buy...

    Looking over your wish list... I'd go with an AIRE Leopard 18' Cat over all the others, or at least the 16' length Jag. The AIRE designs, materials, and workmanship are an overall superior product to the other brands mentioned backed by a stand-up company, warranty, and service record that's second to none in the industry.

    Here's an Idea - early spring season - try before you buy if possible.

    I can make that so!

    See me at Alaska Raft & Kayak in Anchorage

    Brian Richardson

  11. #11
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Try before you buy...

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Richardson View Post
    Looking over your wish list... I'd go with an AIRE Leopard 18' Cat over all the others, or at least the 16' length Jag. The AIRE designs, materials, and workmanship are an overall superior product to the other brands mentioned backed by a stand-up company, warranty, and service record that's second to none in the industry.

    Here's an Idea - early spring season - try before you buy if possible.

    I can make that so!

    See me at Alaska Raft & Kayak in Anchorage

    Brian Richardson
    Brian,

    A bunch of forum folks are doing a float on the upper Kenai on May 3 if you're interested. Put in at the lake and float to Jim's. Check out the separate thread on the trip, it would be great to have you there if you can make it!

    I'm bringing some sockeye fillets (the good stuff), if you want to dazzle anyone with your camp cookery! We're doing a shore lunch on the Nova gravelbar...

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

  12. #12
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    Default I have to second the 18' Cat recommendation...

    Although the 16 like Brian suggested would be more suited to me personally as my focus on smaller streams tends to be higher percentage of my use than you're describing for your purposes. Good luck, and certainly take any chance you can to "try before you buy", for a wise and observant person there is actually so much more being offered there than merely the opportunity for a test ride. Some of my most valuable boating experience has come from opportunities like these. Good luck, and let us know what you come up with in the end!

  13. #13

    Default

    IMO - the 16' Aire sounds right - which I have used and had plenty of capacity to spare for two, and a 18' has more size than I would want for fishing as primary use. I like the 16' cat better than the 14' round, which I have also used.

    Someone else will have to comment on the steerage issue. 16' is a good-sized cat, that's not small. 14' round as a second choice. wouldn't want an 18' myself. too big.

  14. #14
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default 16' catarafts and moose

    Just my take, but I believe the 16-footer is a little small for moose hunting. In terms of lift, it has a capacity close to what you'd put in a 12' round boat. If you pack like most float hunters pack, you're gonna be too heavy on shallower areas.

    There may be a fix for that coming soon, though...

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
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    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
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    Default

    "There may be a fix for that coming soon, though..." -- Very interesting.

    How about just buying a third float tube to run down the middle when needed? Of course you'd have to change you frame all around to pull that off. But perhaps a couple smaller diameter tubes for the center section could be fitted when necessary.

    Personally, I like smaller boats, as I'm less likely to weight them down, and I don't like rowing heavy boats. As soon as you get an 18' cat you start inviting too many friends to live aboard. -- Or at least I do.

    Still, I have a hard time reconciling the purpose of a 16' cat. It's still too heavy for a true play boat, and it saves so little compared to an 18' cat. Anything a you can run in a 16 footer you can run better/shallower in an 18 footer. The 18' cat makes sense, the 16' cat does not. If only I had more self discipline I could buy an 18' cat and still say "no" to the extra people.

    I guess I should start looking for a 13' play cat, as I'm likely to never load a boat light.

  16. #16
    Member tboehm's Avatar
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    Default Well?

    You make a comment like that Mike and you are going to have too share a little more info Please explain. Sound like you may have let the cat out of the bag on something.

  17. #17
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Well..

    Quote Originally Posted by tboehm View Post
    You make a comment like that Mike and you are going to have too share a little more info Please explain. Sound like you may have let the cat out of the bag on something.
    Actually I was just stirring the pot is all. There are some ideas floating around, but ideas are cheap. It takes good cash money to pull off something more.

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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